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South Dakota Rural Enterprise Opportunity Roundup - Economic development defined

“If you had to define "economic development" in one sentence, how would you do it? And would your answer be the same regardless of geography?”

Brian J. Kelsey
Assistant Director, Center for Regional Development
Capital Area Council of Governments

“The economy is…pretty biological, namely it expands and contracts on a natural basis (almost like breathing)….During expansion/innovation phases it increases the number of new products, new companies, new jobs, the amount of wealth and hope and opportunity. Then markets saturate and there is a shakeout period. During the contraction phase it puts on an efficiency squeeze that reduces the number of products, companies, jobs and concentrates wealth. …I'm not sure we will ever get away from those two aspects. The first part is good for creating new wealth while the latter part is good for making that wealth cheaper.....albeit at a cost of laying off people and squeezing down profits. Farming and manufacturing in this country, for example, are very efficient...but very few people make a living that way any more. Sort of like living and dying being inextricably a part of life. “

Chris Gibbons

“Economic development occurs when there are changes in economic activity that lead to a broad-based and sustainable change in the standard of living (which is more than income because it includes many quality of life factors). Yes, this is true regardless of geography and regardless of whether you are talking rural or urban- it is all about how you use and respond to geography and other challenges.”

Daphne Greenwood, Professor of Economics

“Regarding measures since 2000 Census, a big difference between urban and rural will be reliability of data. I've been looking at migration and other measures of distress in Minnesota, and I want to believe the federal sources but there are times the numbers don't add up over the short haul. Even in metro areas tread very carefully (American Community Survey in particular). The other established estimates are typically worse the smaller the place you're looking at.”

John C. Shepard, AICP
Southwest (MN) Regional Development

“I recently had to define economic development and found many definitions available. The most succinct I found was something like "improving the material well-being of a community by improving the efficiency of the economy." With a focus on community-wide improvements achieved by addressing economic inefficiencies, I think it holds for any geography.”

Rob Allen
Pierce County, WA

“The reason why I disagree with these kinds of definitions is that they focus only on the efficiency side of the economy and ignore issues of equity, which are also important to people. To get to a broader definition of the standard of living or quality of life sometimes trade-offs have to be made in immediate material well-being (Two examples: 1) a new Wal-mart might improves material well-being but hurt local businesses that are the fabric of the community as well as the way the community congregates to do their shopping and 2) a new coal mine might improve the material well-being of the community but cause water pollution, deforestation, loss of wildlife habitat or scenery). That is why the definition of economic development has to be broader.”

Daphne Greenwood


629 S. Minnesota Ave.
Suite 201
P.O. Box 2282
Sioux Falls, SD

ph 605.978.2804

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